Cabinet expansion unlikely before bypollsCongress factions reach power-sharing deal, but Dahal is waiting for Bara by-election results.
The much-awaited Cabinet expansion is unlikely to happen before the by-elections in Tanahun, Chitwan and Bara that are scheduled for April 23.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal will appoint new ministers only after the by-elections, leaders of the ruling alliance said on Thursday quoting Dahal and Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba.
Earlier, Prime Minister Dahal had expanded the Cabinet on March 31 for the seventh time in three months by including ministers from five parties of the ruling alliance. But the Congress, the largest party that has been allocated the lion’s share in the Cabinet with eight portfolios, has yet to nominate four ministers owing to factional feud in the party.
The party’s rival faction led by Shekhar Koirala and Gagan Thapa had refused to nominate their picks demanding at least three Cabinet portfolios.
But on Thursday, Congress leaders said they have reached an agreement whereby the Koirala-Thapa faction will be allowed to appoint three Cabinet ministers and a minister of state.
“As per our demand, we will get to appoint three Cabinet ministers and one minister of state,” Koirala told the Post, now it is up to Deuba and Dahal when to appoint the ministers.
But Koirala would not name the nominees from his camp.
“The expansion is likely to happen after the by-elections, but I don’t know why they want to wait,” said Koriala.
Another Congress leader claimed that party vice president Dhanraj Gurung, and leaders NP Saud, Dig Bahadur Limbu, Mohan Basnet and Surendra Acharya are the most likely contenders for ministers.
Gurung, Limbu and Acharya are from the Koirala-Thapa camp while Saud and Basnet are from the Deuba camp.
Saud is reportedly being considered for foreign minister, and Basnet is likely to be named minister for Health and Population. Three other leaders—joint general secretaries Badri Pandey and Jeevan Pariyar, and Teju Lal Chaudhary—had been demanding an additional Cabinet seat for the Shekhar Koirala camp, but they had to drop the demand.
Two general secretaries Gagan Thapa and Bishwa Prakash Sharma had earlier nominated Pradip Poudel for minister, but Deuba refused to heed the call.
Limbu is likely to land the Law and Parliamentary Affairs portfolio, but the Cabinet berths of Gurung and Acharya are yet to be confirmed, according to Congress leaders.
Congress vice president Purna Bahadur Khadka is already in the Cabinet as a deputy prime minister and minister for defence, Prakash Sharan Mahat is serving as finance minister, Ramesh Rijal as the minister for industry, commerce and supplies, and Sita Gurung as the minister for urban development.
The Koirala-Thapa camp is yet to decide whom to appoint as minister of state, but leaders said the position is likely to go to a woman lawmaker.
Lawmakers Binod Chaudhary, Saud, Ram Hari Khatiwada, and Mohan Basnet are the other ministerial aspirants from the Deuba camp.
Chaudhary, the billionaire businessman, is also eying the foreign affairs portfolio, while Khatiwada and Basnet want to lead the health ministry, according to Congress insiders.
On Thursday, Koirala and Thapa held a meeting with their loyal lawmakers and informed that the party has agreed to allocate them four seats in the Council of Ministers—three ministers and one minister of state.
“It will take a few days to convene the party’s office bearer’s meeting, which will decide our nominees for ministers,” said Thapa while indicating that new Cabinet expansion will likely happen only after the by-elections.
Saud, the reported frontrunner for foreign minister, told the Post, he was not sure when the prime minister would induct new ministers in the Cabinet.
“Probably the prime minister is waiting for the results of the Bara by-election as Janata Samajbadi Party chairman Upendra Yadav [the ruling coalition’s candidate] has expressed his desire to join the Cabinet,” a CPN (Maoist Center) leader said.
The Congress will get the foreign affairs; law, justice, and parliamentary affairs; water supply; forest and environment; and youth and sports ministries, leaders involved in inter-party negotiations say.
Meanwhile, Maoist Centre General Secretary Dev Gurung said Cabinet expansion was delayed as the prime minister has been waiting for the list of ministerial nominees from the Congress.
“I think another reason is that the Janata Samajbadi Party is also looking for one more Cabinet berth. So the prime minister is waiting for nominations by both the Congress and the Janata Samajbadi in order to expand the Cabinet.”